Suppose the Blue Jays did not takes one of the expected players with their first round pick in the upcoming July draft. Who might they take instead?
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The fun thing about projecting draft picks is that you will almost always be wrong. (For Douglas Adams fans, a “reciproversexclusion”!) Players’ stock can change almost daily before the draft, as can their signing bonus demands. And on the draft day itself, unexpected decisions by the teams choosing ahead of you can result in unexpected opportunities (think Austin Martin at #5)
That said, it is still fun to speculate.
In Part II of this series, I identified the players who more than one of the many mock drafts were projecting the Jays to take. But what if the Jays went in another direction? Which players have a signficant chance of being both highly rated and available with the 23rd pick?
To identify potential “dark horse” candidates, I took seven of the more popular mock drafts: Baseball America / Fangraphs / Keith Law (The Athletic) / Jonathan Mayo (mlb.com) / Jim Callis (mlb pipeline) / mymlbdraft / Kiley McDaniel (ESPN). For each of those seven, I identified the projected top 23 picks (or the 23 highest ranked players).
I then looked for players who”
- Were in the top-23 in at least two of these mocks,
- Had a least one mock draft project them as a top-10 pick, and
- Had at least 3 of the 7 mocks project them as still being available at pick #23
There were three players who met these criteria, and who could accordingly (by my rules!) be considered legitimate “dark horse” candidates:
Andrew Dutkanych IV, RHP – 6’3″, 205 lbs, 18 years old, Brebeuf Prep HS
Rankings (based on the order of mocks above – BA/F/KL/JM/JC/MMD/KM): 15/-/-/9/-/18/21, where “-” means “not in the top 23”
Well-proportioned frame with lots of strength and good twitch, athleticism. Primary right-handed pitcher who only pitched during the event. Energetic, athletic delivery with a high slot and generates a ton of ride on the fastball. Heater topped out at 95 mph and held velocity well. Fastball missed plenty of bats near the top of the strike zone. Curveball shows hammer 12/6 shape and bite while the slider is very firm in the upper-80s with late biting action. Excellent feel to spin and a high level competitor who pitches with confidence and swagger. Tremendous student. Verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
Like most high school pitchers, Andrew is a work in process. But with four 50-grade pitches (of which his fastball and slider are 60-grade) he is highly projectable. It is possible that the reason why several of the mocks are not higher on Andrew is his commitment to Vanderbilt (a university notoriously difficult to pry draftees away from) and the fact that he comes from a well-off family (his father is a well-known trial lawyer, so he might not be bowled over by a seven-figure bonus). But hopefully Andrew would be up-front about his willingness to sign and the price at which he would do so, so if he fell to the Jays at 23 there would be no surprises.
Chase DeLauter, OF – 6’4″, 235 lbs, 20 years old, James Madison University
As CBS Sports noted at the beginning of the year:
DeLauter is (and will likely continue to be) the trendy dark horse pick to go No. 1 this summer. In two seasons with the Dukes, he’s pummeled Colonial Athletic Association pitching to the tune of a .385/.488/.657 batting line, 29 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases, and 10 more walks than strikeouts. DeLauter eased concerns about his excellence being the product of substandard competition last summer by tormenting the Cape Cod League. He launched nine home runs and tallied three more walks than strikeouts while hitting .298/.397/.589 in 34 contests.
Chase played in centre field at JMU, but scouts feel that he is more likely to end up in right field in his professional career. His speed and arm are adequate, but not exceptional. Clearly, his carrying tool will (or won’t!) be his bat. The problem – as CBS notes – is that his videogame-type stats at JMU have to be taken in the context of the weak Colonial Atlantic Conference in which he plays. That he did well in Cape Cod helps validate his JMU stats, but he was clearly overmatched in a game against Florida State earlier this year.
Chase broke his foot in April, and missed the end of the JMU season (which ended on May 21). The injury is not expected to leave permanent damage, so it is unclear how much this will impact on Chase’s draft standing.
Chase is a bit like Austin Martin, whose hit tool was dominant at the college level but whose defense was relatively ordinary. If the Jays believe that Chase’s hit tool is so good that he will continue to dominate, then he might be a very intriguing gamble. But if not, they might hesitate to put all their eggs in his hitting basket.
Justin Crawford, OF – 6’3″, 175 lbs, 18 years old, Bishop Gorman HS
Justin is the son of ex-major leaguer Carl Crawford (can you say “pedigree”?). In a way, he is the anti-deLauter: he has 70 grade speed and a 55 grade arm, giving him a 60 grade fielding rating and he could easily be a plus defender in centre field at the major league level. But his bat is less advanced.
As mlb.com notes:
Anyone who remembers watching his dad play should not be surprised that Crawford is one of the better athletes in this class. He regularly records easily plus run times and that near-elite speed will allow him to be a threat on the bases and cover a ton of ground in the outfield. At the plate, the left-handed hitter has very good bat-to-ball skills, showing the ability to make adjustments. He’s more of a slap hitter now, content to let his legs do the work, but there’s some whip in his swing and he can sit back and drive the ball the other way, with added strength to help him in the power department in the future.
As he fills out into his 6’3″ frame, Justin should develop more power. It is unlikely that he will ever be a middle-of-the-order bat, but if he could match his father’s career .290/.330/.435 line and 104 wRC+ along with plus defense in centre field and lead-off level baserunning, he could be a Devon White redux. And even if his hitting does not come around, a plus defender in centre field with a below-average bat still has value. So his floor is arguably higher than a player like DeLautier.
Justin is very much a helium play. But in a sense, he might be less of a gamble than a DeLauter (or an Austin Martin). In order for DeLauter to be a 5 WAR star at the MLB level, his bat needs to perform at a near-elite level. Not many elite college or high school hitters can do that. But if Crawford can maintain his near-elite defense, he only needs to hit at a tick above major league average to produce the same value.
The bottom line
The 2022 draft is a deep one, which means that there should still be talented players available for the #23 pick. Each comes with a different floor and ceiling, and a different risk profile. The issue for the Jays will be determining which gamble they choose to take.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.